Swazi students denounce solidarity network foul-mouth

“The Swaziland National Union of Students is amazed and angry at the bile spewed by one self-imposed exile called Lucky Lukhele. … The article was a constructive criticism of the broad, mass democratic movement in Swaziland. … Lucky Lukhele and the chairperson of the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), Solly [Mapaila], have actually destabilized the mass democratic movement,” the Swazi student organisation SNUS said in a statement issued by Secretary General Samkeliso Ginindza today [April 28].

The reason for the strongly worded statement from SNUS was the nature of the wording made by the SSN’s Lucky Lukhele and the Swazi April 12 Uprising Facebook campaign in replies to an article I wrote.

The article was about the predictions of these self-professed revolutionaries – most of whom are apparently based in South Africa – and the rhetoric of the democratic movement.

Especially as the predictions, that promise “a hundred thousand people on the streets” and a subsequent “revolution” turn out to be pretty far from the truth. King Mswati unfortunately still wields the executive power in Swaziland, regardless of the more levelheaded and realistic attempts to bring democracy to Swaziland by many brave and focused members of the democratic movement. I therefore thought a little constructive criticism was in order.

Funnily enough, freelance journalist Louise Redvers made pretty much the same point in the Mail & Guardian on April 20, apparently without being attacked. “Some people are starting to question whether Swaziland’s democracy movement has not become too much of a willing victim, happier to cry foul than to take part,” she wrote.

I, on the other hand, was instantly attacked by the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) and the anonymously led Swazi April 12 Uprising Facebook campaign. Lucky Lukhele of the SSN referred to my article as being “ludicrously unfounded” and “bullshit,” and my organisation, Africa Contact, who has worked in partnership with the democratic movement in Swaziland for over ten years, was called a “pitiful excuse for a solidarity partner.”

The Swazi April 12 Uprising also called the article “bullshit,” and referred to it as being “outrageously far from the truth”, “an outrageous distortion,” and myself as being a “con-thing.” They then went on to rhetorically ask, “where is the documentation of the fact that Swazis were beaten, abducted and in some cases raped by the state’s armed forces [on April 12 2011 and] how much has this con-man done to highlight the fact that our most vocal elements, the youth, had their leaders arrested on that date under false ‘explosive charges’?”

Unfortunately, they hadn’t done their homework. In fact I wrote five articles that were published on my blog, Africa Contact’s website, Newstime Africa and in other news media that documented the brutality of the regime on April 12 2011, as well as several follow-up articles (and I have written many articles – over 100, in fact, containing over 75.000 words – about Swaziland and its democratic movement).

In the articles about April 12 2011, I wrote, amongst other things, that “Swaziland’s police and security forces have detained, and probably manhandled, several members of the Swazi democratic movement and several members of the international press even before today’s announced uprising in Swaziland, inspired by similar events in North Africa, has begun,” “The police in Swaziland continue to arrest, detain and generally try and scare people from joining the announced mass demonstrations in Swaziland today,” “Swazi police are trying to crush the Egypt and Tunisia-like uprising in Swaziland by teargassing and firing rubber bullets at demonstrators,” and “Swazi security forces are trying to shut down the uprising with water cannons, tear gas and random beatings and arrests.”

I also helped instigate a campaign for the release of Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni, the two student activists who were charged with possession of explosives. And I wrote a chapter for a book called “African Awakening: the emerging revolutions” about the April 12 2011 uprising that was published by Pambazuka Press. Here, ironically, I quoted Sikelela Dlamini, employed by the Swaziland United Democratic Front at the time (and falsely accused by other agitators of having been fired from the organisation for having pinched money from their coffers), who remonstrates with the Swazi April 12 Facebook campaign by making exactly the point I was making in my article.

“While Swaziland remains predominantly rural with limited Internet connectivity, the hype around an uprising managed to filter throughout the country,” said Sikelela Dlamini. “It generated unrealistic excitement and anticipation on the part of a general citizenry, who became spectators while the bulk of those who generated the Facebook hype also resided outside the country and could not coordinate activities on the ground to actuate their cyber aspirations.”

And perhaps Sikelela Dlamini has hit the hammer on the nail here. Perhaps the problem is that the people within the SSN and the Swazi April 12 Uprising want to remote-control, so to speak, the masses in Swaziland to dance to their revolutionary tune from their offices in South Africa – a tune that calls for a violent uprising in Swaziland.

Just listen to the statement from the Swazi April 12 Uprising campaign in reply to my article: “The April 12 Uprising is first and foremost the aspiration of the most radical elements within the country’s democratic movement … these elements will always be two steps ahead of the masses … and being ahead of the masses they take the role of masterminds and strategists who propose a way forward and demand that the masses revolt.” And listen to Lucky Lukhele from the SSN in his response to my article today: “The state understands no other language but the force of violence.”

The problem for the SSN and the Swazi April 12 Uprising is that neither the masses nor the democratic movement at large seems to be buying it, as the press statement from SNUS and lack of support for their Marxist revolution in Swaziland clearly shows. Not the self-righteous and unrealistic revolutionary rhetoric that in effect insists on the exclusion of the masses from the planning of what ought to be a mass-based struggle, nor the claims that they are not ‘crying wolf’ when they continue to claim that the revolution will come ‘today.’

Even people on the SSN online forum don’t buy it. “As a matter of fact, people do constantly ‘cry wolf’ in Swaziland,” wrote former Cosatu employee Dominic Tweedie on the the forum, in a reply to the tirade from Lucky Lukhele.

Update 29/4-2012: After having communicated our differences in opinion online for a day or two, I have reconciled with Lucky Lukhele via mail and he has spoken with SNUS president, Maxwell Dlamini over the phone. Perhaps this should serve as a lesson to us all in how not to use our easy and instant access to the electronic media.

Update 30/4-2012: JOINT SNUS AND SSN STATEMENT, 30th April, 2012. after the statement released on Saturday and attributed to the Swaziland National Union of Students [SNUS], the leadership of the Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] today had a telephone conversation with the SNUS leadership, and consequently the SNUS leadership distanced itself from the statement. Read the whole statement here.

Update 1/5-2012: “There are people who have opted to use the cyber space to insult others, progressive formations in Swaziland and abroad.  This is wrong and we condemn it, and disciplinary action shall be meted to those of our members found to have done this” – Mario Masuku, PUDEMO President, Salesian Catholic School Sports Ground,  Manzini, 1. May 2012.

Update 9/5-2012: PUDEMO NEC statement 9 May 2012

“We wish to deal specifically with one issue in this statement; the sustained insults and attacks on the liberation movement and the progressive forces of Swaziland through the SSN forum. The NEC noted that the time to act decisively had come […]

We are extremely disappointed in the manner the SSN Google forum has been used by certain elements to attack the integrity of the movement and its leadership with SSN leadership shockingly silent. […]

The SSN google forum has become a beehive of anti-PUDEMO propaganda.

These are but a few of the tendencies we have noted which have been used to undermine and ridicule the liberation movement PUDEMO and the genuine forces for democracy in Swaziland, including the newly formed unitary federation TUCOSWA and other Civic organisations. […]

At this moment in time the NEC resolves to indefinitely suspend the activities of the SSN with immediate effect. This will be accompanied by the indefinite closure of the physical office of the SSN, which is a PUDEMO office; re-engagement of genuine friends of the Swazi people in South Africa to render solidarity. […]

The NEC reiterates on behalf of the struggling people of Swaziland the good work done by these selfless internationalists who have always held in high esteem the efforts of the people of Swaziland in their desire for freedom and played practical roles in supporting, while at the same time not shying away from offering constructive and comradely criticism and advice. We wish to convey that the insults, the labels and denigrations are not in the name of the people of Swaziland.”

UPDATE 10/5-2012: Swaziland Solidarity Network Statement 10. May 2012:

“The statement is unfortunate and uncalled for. As a fraternal ally of PUDEMO and the broader democratic movement in Swaziland, we find it absurd that PUDEMO chose to make unfounded allegations about SSN in the manner in which this statement was issued […]

We wish to categorically state the SSN will not close shop while the dictatorship of Mswati’s regime is still in power and we are not apologetic about that.  Contrary, to what is alleged by some elements within PUDEMO; SSN is not a solidarity arm of PUDEMO, but an independent organisation of internationalists who are in solidarity with the Swazi people.”

Read whole statement here.

Read more:

Swaziland students turn on SSN, Swazi Media Commentary, 29 April 2012

Swaziland’s own ‘Life of Brian’, Swazi Media Commentary, 30 April 2012

3 pro-democracy groups at war, Times of Swaziland, 2 May 2012

Democracy groups split is irrelevant, Swaziland Media Commentary, 10 May 2012

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